It was pomp and colour at the Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi, Kenya as the Africa Podfest got underway on 12 February to mark this year’s Africa Podcast Day – a day set aside to celebrate the continent’s top podcasters, as well as the upcoming ones.
Launched in 2020, the day celebrates podcasting in Africa which has embraced the tool as a favourite for storytelling.
The highlight of this year’s celebrations was the launch of Africa Renewal Podcast – a production of the UN Department of Global Communications (DGC).
At the venue – SemaBOX, a specialist podcast studio and podcast incubator – confetti blanketed the air as those gathered cheered the launch of the podcast. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the festival was hybrid – in person and virtual.
Sandra Macharia, Chief of Africa Section in the DGC, said the Africa Renewal Podcast, which is an addition to the Section’s communication tools was part of its strategy to expand and diversify its digital platforms for maximum reach.
“It is audio, it’s very intimate and it’s a great way for us to reach new audiences on topics that are pertinent to Africa. Topics that we chose deliberately to advance voices of Africans who are working on the continent, and with stories that are real, inspiring and hopeful about Africa,” Ms. Macharia said at the launch.
The first of a three-episode launch series features Dr. Joy Kategekwa, a trade law and policy expert with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), who is one of the architects of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). She discusses issues related to free trade in Africa and outlines the potential of the trade pact on the lives of people on the continent.
How podcasting is taking Africa by storm
“The Africa Renewal Podcast focuses on Africa’s development from the perspective of people living and working on and for the continent,” says Nanette Braun, acting Director of Strategic Communications at the DGC. “It highlights the work of individuals and institutions through solutions-focused stories of Africa’s social, economic and political journey.”
The podcast is an addition to other communication channels that Africa Renewal uses to tell the African story of socio-economic development.
“Our podcast complements existing audio articles and our other Africa Renewal platforms that contribute to meeting the need for factual and balanced content about the continent,” adds Ms. Macharia.
Africa Podfest was co-founded by Ms. Josephine Karianjahi and Ms. Melissa Mbugua, who are also the brains behind the Africa Podcast Day.
Indeed, research they conducted last year found that Africans are listening more to African-produced podcasts, and they are looking for entertainment as well as information content.
“The three big powerhouses are Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. We also found out that other countries like Zambia, Egypt and others are actually growing their community and the podcasts that they are making,” said Ms. Karianjahi.
The growing rate of internet connection and mobile phone penetration on the continent has spurred the growth of podcast listenership.
The 3rd annual Africa Podcast Day’s theme was “Podcasting is Freedom” and saw hundreds of African podcasters both at home and abroad participate online. They shared their experiences of podcasting and what it has meant for them and their audiences.
Those in attendance got to listen to some of Africa’s top-rated podcasts, as well those making their debut into the continent’s podcast scene.
Ms. Khayriyyah Muhammad Smith, a podcaster from the United States of America spoke of the power of podcasts bringing on board voices of the marginalized into day-to-day conversations.
Ms. Smith’s podcast titled ‘Bring Your Own Chair’ for example, features women of colour. “We offer them a chance to tell their own stories in their own words,” Ms. Smith who was among the first guests of the event shared.
The BBC World Service team, who run the ‘Africa Daily Live’ podcast spoke about why one of the world’s leading radio stations would diversify to podcasting.
BBC journalist and presenter Alan Kasujja spoke of Africans as big storytellers, with a tradition of oral narrative. He said due to ease of entry into the podcasting scene, more and more Africans now have the freedom to tell their own stories in languages that they feel comfortable.
“It is a newfound power, to speak your truth. Revel in that power, there are so many stories out there,” said Mr. Kasujja.
BBC Producer, Victoria Uwonkunda, said there is a future for women in podcasting as it is a safe space.
“Be yourself, and remember podcasts are so intimate so it is a nice place to speak freely,” she said.
Online, we sought to understand what Africans are podcasting about and what the theme of the day meant.
Nigerian podcaster Mr. Rodney Omeokachie, the host of ‘The Young God’ podcast said he enjoys being able to express himself freely and fearlessly.
“Freedom is a feeling, every time I hit the record button, that’s me being free,” he told Africa Renewal.
Based in Canada, Nnamdi Okaa, also known as Mista Dre, one of the hosts and producer of ‘Backyard Bants’ podcast said for him freedom is the ability to stay in the diaspora while having one’s own platform to express themselves without being judged.
Challenges, however, remain for those hoping to start a podcast. These include the high cost of mobile data in most African countries, as well as the high cost of equipment that would give one good sound and technical quality.
Despite these challenges a good number of podcasters in Africa have managed to make money from podcasting.
So what are you waiting for?